It is heart wrenching that we do not yet have a signed agreement with Belarus for health respites abroad. Reaching out to other needy children who are living under the shadow of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, can be just as rewarding as the bonds you have made with the Belarusian youth. The groundwork is laid and the Ukrainian children are waiting for their chance to go abroad. Heidi Dietz, who is heading up the Ukraine Program for CofCUSA, put together this video that shows opportunities to help the youth in Ukraine. For more information, contact her at childrenofchernobyl[dot]friend[at]Verizon[dot]com.
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It has been our goal from the beginning of the non-return incident last year, to keep all organization leaders informed on the status of the international agreement for health recuperation abroad. These patient and dedicated leaders have distributed this information and kept their constituencies up to date. We continue, however, to receive inquiries regarding the future of the summer hosting program from interested individuals in the US and from abroad as well. This blog will be used to report the status quo on this topic as well as other CofCUSA news items. We welcome your comments with each post.
Today I was able to speak with US Department of State personnel regarding the status of the health recuperation abroad agreement. Good news….Joe told me that their draft response to the Belarus proposal was finalized and will be given to Belarus officials. Now, the wait begins for their response to it.
We also discussed needing some indication by September whether there is going to be a US/Belarus health respite program next summer; or, if organizations need to move on to preserve their organizations and constituencies.
In trying to assist a leader recently with two children with medical problems, I was in conversation with the Consular Division of the US Embassy in Minsk. I wanted to share a response I received that I thought was appropriate for all of us to think about as they, along with DofS, continue to negotiate with the Belarusian authorities on behalf of our summer programs:
“Without a bilateral agreement signed yet regarding the Chernobyl’s Children programs, we do not want to jeopardize the long-term future of the program by doing anything that may look to the Belarusian government like manipulating the format to continue programs essentially identical to those run in the framework of Chernobyl’s Children. As much as we understand and appreciate the assistance your organizations provide to the Belarusian children, unfortunately, I do not recommend them to apply for visas this year. As before, we are continuing to work together with our colleagues in Washington towards an agreement and will certainly be in touch as soon as we reach one.”